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Coughlin meets his hero

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

During the NFC coaches' breakfast at the recent owners' meeting, Giants head coach Tom Coughlin was as relaxed as I've ever seen him. Even as he was being grilled about Plaxico Burress' status, his expression never changed.

Perhaps he was looking forward to finally meeting his biggest sports hero in person the next day. Ernie Palladino of The Journal News has a fascinating blog entry about Coughlin's trip to see legendary UCLA coach John Wooden, who lives in Encino, Calif.

Coughlin was a senior at Syracuse in 1967 when Wooden began his remarkable streak of seven consecutive national championships. And since the mid '90s, Coughlin has called Wooden two or three times a year out of his admiration for the man. His office at Giants Stadium is filled with pictures and words from coach Wooden. And that's why his wife finally convinced him to go visit the 98-year-old man in person two weeks ago.

"She said, 'You've got to go see him, sit with him, talk to him, because if you don't you'll regret it for the rest of your life,'" Coughlin told Palladino.

Wooden had just returned home following a 30-day stay in the hospital for pneumonia. But that didn't prevent him from hosting Coughlin for three hours.

"He is gracious, extremely polite, sincere," Coughlin said. "He never interrupts. And he's an intent listener. You know how some people, when you're talking, they're getting their next thought ready? He's not like that. He listens to every word you say. He has a tremendous memory. He's a great story-teller.

"He has a tremendous sense of humor. He makes fun of himself. I asked him about his medication and he said, "I have no idea what's for what, nor do I know if they counteract each other.'"

Hat tip to the NYT's Fifth Down Blog for linking to this story.